The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
long-suffering, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Against such there is no law.
The six-year-old child raced into the school cafeteria one Monday morning along with her four-year-old sister. The fear in her eyes was almost tangible. Racing to a teacher, she explained that the little sister had died that weekend and came back to life. The teacher sat and listened in amazement at the child's story. The mother's angry fist had knocked the child out with a fierce blow. The six-year-old thought her sister was dead as she had laid unconscious on the floor. I was fresh out of college when faced with this situation. Oh, I knew how to write a lesson plan. I had a lot of good read aloud techniques to keep children listening to a story. I even had a pocket full of songs to make the best of my day, but nothing in college prepared me for that. Nothing prepared me for the look of fear in the eyes of those two little girls. NOTHING.
The necessary calls were made, and the girls did not go home that day. Their prayers were answered.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, kindness ... to some we are a protector.
"Teacher, teacher, come see my room," the little boy yelled as he welcomed me to his house. His excitement somehow lit up the old house that was filled with a mound of trash on the porch, broken toys scattered around inside, as well as piles of clothes and dirty diapers. Was he ashamed that there was only a path for them to walk in throughout the house? No, he was just excited to see his teacher in his home which appeared to be an abandoned house that the mother and her four children had moved into. There was no running water in this cold shell of a home. The mother looked as downcast as the house itself, yet the child was full of joy as he gave me a tour. After that visit, I always made sure he was taken care of with extra clothes and food for his family.
The fruit of the Spirit is joy, goodness ... to some we are a provider.
The first day with this lively child was probably the most exhausting day of my life. Her mother had dropped this new student off at the door and literally ran down the hall. The little girl burst into my room and wreaked havoc on the entire class. She was on top of the tables, under shelves, sitting on top of desks, opening cabinet doors, hitting other students, and grabbing everything that wasn't bolted down. More than once I chased her down the hallway and even outside as she ran away. She demanded the constant, direct supervision of an adult. As the weeks rolled by, she learned to behave and by the end of the year had won my heart. A few years later, I sang "Amazing Grace" at the funeral of one of her loved ones. I sang that song to her many times at school during the next few years until she finally began to sing it with me.
The fruit of the Spirit is long-suffering, self-control... to some we are the only message of the Gospel they will every hear.
I have heard stories about mothers who have prostituted their young elementary-aged children to support their drug habit. I have held children as they've cried over losing family members who have overdosed on drugs. I have put lessons aside to listen to them share their heartbreaking stories. I have prayed for the right words to say to somehow bring comfort. These kind of stories are the norm for teachers to hear. It is a heavy burden to bear.
The fruit of the Spirit is peace, faithfulness, gentleness ... to some we are the only comforter in their lives.
This week, I celebrated 25 years as a teacher. The stories I've shared are only the tip of the iceberg of the experiences I've had. It is just part of the job for teachers, a job that doesn't end at three o'clock.
As I began my teaching career, I constantly prayed throughout my day which led me to the epiphany-
They can take the Bible out of schools, but they can't take Christians out of schools!
They can take prayer out of schools, but they can't stop us from praying!
I realized my job is an open mission field. The fruit of the Spirit can be manifested in my life as I daily reach out to others. The way to keep Jesus in the schools is to live a life that bears His fruit.
What kind of fruit are you bearing?
Nothing can be more disappointing to a farmer than to plant a fruit tree that bears no fruit. On the contrary- how pleasing it is to plant a tree that produces a large harvest. One apple tree can bear up to 500 apples per year! Picture that tree - each apple has seeds inside, so we have 500 apples with up to 10 seeds in each one. I've heard it said that you can count the seeds in an apple, but you can't count the apples in a seed. What a harvest.
May we be challenged today to be fruitful. May we take the message of Jesus and live our lives so that many are changed for Him. Every job is a mission field, and even if you don't have a job outside the home, there are hurting people everywhere. Take a moment and think about how many people you encounter in a week - your neighbors, waitresses, cashiers - the list goes on and on. We have opportunities each day to show the love of God to others. Let us challenge ourselves to be prepared to produce fruit in every harvest field the Lord plants us.
Jesus gave us the greatest commandment in Mark 12:30:
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind,
and with all your strength.
This means to love God above all. The REVEAL Research Project surveyed churchgoers and found only 11% of Christians who are actually propelled by their faith to love God and others with their whole heart. Can you believe that? So, 89% of the people in our pews are not wholeheartedly serving God.
When it comes to your relationship with God, ask yourself -- are you fully committed - unshakable - unwavering - steadfast - passionate - fervent - diligent? If you answered 'yes' to all of these, does your life demonstrate it?
Most of us want to do something for the Lord - we are concerned, but often our schedules do not have any room for us to do anything. We are just too busy.
There is a big difference in being concerned about working for the Lord, and actually doing something.
There is a big difference in saying, "I will pray for you", and actually being in intercessory prayer for the needs of others.
There is a big difference in saying you love God with all of your heart, and actually loving Him to the point that you put Him first in your life.
May we all be challenged to be a part of the 11% and make that statistic be a thing of the past as more of us wholeheartedly love God and others. Let us reap a bountiful harvest!